The French Quarter is the heart of New Orleans, and home of the famous Bourbon Street. The French Quarter is the oldest neighbourhood of the city, and is therefore enriched with history and culture. The best thing to do is just wander through the streets and take in all of your surroundings.
Many people come to the French Quarter (and New Orleans) with the sole purpose of taking advantage of the open door drinking policies and festivities that come with Bourbon Street. We made the mistake of heading into Bourbon Street on our first night in New Orleans and were rather overwhelmed and disappointed by New Orleans at first. To be honest, Bourbon Street is not that great! As we made our way through the neon lit street, we were met by loud, obnoxious drunk people, way too many strip joints and an awful stench. Now I don’t mind a good party street but this was definitely a class of its own. That being said, there are many live bands and places to grab a drink, but there are also some other great places in New Orleans that are more enjoyable to go out to. It’s definitely a place to go and see, but just don’t revolve your entire trip around it – there is a lot more to the French Quarter than just this one street.
Now that’s out of the way, time to move on to the more interesting and enjoyable parts of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
The next day we began our walk at Jackson Square; the heart of the French Quarter. Amongst the crowded buildings and busy streets, this perfectly manicured park is a breath of fresh air. Behind Jackson Square stands the St. Louis Cathedral, which we had a brief look inside of. On either side of the cathedral are two almost identical buildings, the Cabildo and Presbyte`re, both buildings are museums. The other buildings surrounding the Square are the Pontalba Buildings, on the bottom floors are shops and restaurants, while the top level are apartments with a huge ten year wait period!
We wandered down the streets amongst the heavily Spanish colonial influenced buildings, entangled with intricate wrought and cast iron. You’ll notice that all of the buildings whether they are businesses or homes, the entrance is placed right on the sidewalk and the courtyards are in the back – very different to the typical American architecture with the gardens at the front running along the street.
We were able to spot some of the old French colonial style architecture amongst all of the Spanish architecture – the Calle del Maine museum. This building was built against the Spanish codes after one of the Great Fires of New Orleans. Plus, the courtyard is also one of the filming location for the movie 12 Years A Slave.
We also made our way down Decatur Street, and of course made the obligatory stop at Cafe Du Monde to eat some of the French donuts, Beignets.
My favourite street to stroll down was Royal Street. During the day-time it was enriched with art galleries, little quaint boutiques and antique stores, and is home to the Court of Two Sisters cafe. The most photographed building in the city, the LeBranche Mansion, sits on Royal Street – famous for its beautiful cast-iron work. While it was lovely and artsy during the day, at night time the street was buzzing with street performers.
The next stop in New Orleans was the Garden District – a completely different vibe than that of the French Quarter.